Caught (up) in traffic

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Crowded EDSA MRT 3 stations

December 2013
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There have been a lot of posts on social media about the very crowded MRT and LRT stations. These posts are not new and the situation is not because of the Christmas season when a lot of people seem to be out and about the entire day, many doing their shopping. In fact, the stations have become very crowded mainly due to the increasing number of people taking the MRT and LRT lines. Unfortunately, the LRT 1 and MRT 3 stations were not designed to handle so many people. Only LRT 2 stations, which were designed like metro or subway stations in Singapore and Japan, seem adequate for its passengers.

Below are two photos taken by a good friend, Raul, who is a regular user of the MRT 3. He took these photos sometime September of this year while heading home from his workplace. The photos don’t lie about the platforms being filled by people so much so that there’s a big risk of an incident occurring when people might fall off the platform. So far, there has been none reported. But of course, we don’t want such accidents to occur despite the conditions indicating one or more are likely to happen sometime soon if precautions are not taken.

mrt3-2One cannot tell arriving from departing passengers except maybe by the direction they are going at the stairs to the platform at an MRT station.

mrt3-1“Walang mahulugan ng karayom” translates into “nowhere a pin can be dropped” is a saying that is apt to the very crowded platform of the MRT 3’s Boni Avenue Station. Meanwhile, the conditions inside the trains are said to be like “sardines in a can.” I have even heard some of my students say it is more like “corned beef in a can” to describe how packed trains are during peak periods. I have experienced riding trains during the peak hours in Tokyo and Singapore and the experiences of my friend who took these photos (who also studied in Japan) are pretty much the same.

The obvious issue aside from platform capacity is the fact that the MRT and LRT lack the rolling stock (i.e., cars or trains) to increase their frequencies of service (or reduce the headways between trains). They cannot lengthen their trains also because they are limited by the lengths of the station platforms. It doesn’t take a genius to determine how many units more the LRTA and MRTC need to add to the rolling stocks of LRT 1 and MRT 3 to improve their services. It is also imperative that the stations be improved, perhaps re-designed, to accommodate more passengers with more sophisticated fare machines and turnstiles, and longer, more spacious platforms. This is something that could have been anticipated by the agencies responsible like the DOTC, LRTA and MRTC years ago. For some reasons, however, there have been no significant actions regarding these transport needs. The end result is what we now see as the supply side of transport being inadequate for the increasing demand.

There are many questions that commuters are asking regarding this situation with the LRT and MRT. The biggest seem to be about when the government will finally act on the issues mentioned. Is this something that requires Public-Private Partnership (PPP)? Is the government reneging on its responsibilities by not investing in mass transit? What can be done in the immediate term? Hopefully, these questions will be answered soon and agencies will have the sense of urgency to address the needs of the commuting public.


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